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Leaving on a Good Note

If you've been admitted to Carlson's Class of 2015, then congratulations to you! As you prepare to leave your workplaces in the next few months, here are a few pieces of advice from my own experience.

Plan your departure date carefully. Be sure that you understand what you'll need to do before classes start. If you're relocating, as I did, then you'll need a few days to unpack, set up utilities, order books, buy supplies, and feel settled in. You'll also want to connect with people you know in the area, so plan on having some dinners and drinks.

Most programs, including Carlson, conduct an orientation program that prepares students for academic and career success, and enables them to start building friendships. This is an important part of your program, so plan to be fully engaged in it and not distracted by other activities.

You may also have pre-term coursework. Some schools have on-campus courses. Last year, we had an assignment to complete independently to prepare for Financial Accounting. Those who hadn't had accounting before (like me) found it a day's worth of work well worth it.

Finally, many students find that shifting some career search activities (like reflecting, informational interviewing, and conducting online research) to before classes start helps them target their efforts better and feel less overwhelmed during the term. The Graduate Business Career Center has resources and coaching to help you make the most of this time.

Understand your workplace's conventions. Many MBAs-to-be are reluctant to inform their colleagues and supervisors about their departure, even if they secured recommendations from some of them as part of their applications. Deciding when to share the news of your departure can be a balancing act. Ask around and reflect on what others who've left for graduate school have done and how they've been treated.

I decided to tell my colleagues in the late winter. I had been concerned that they would see me as a "lame duck" or would doubt my commitment, but instead I found them to be very supportive and helpful - and appreciative that I trusted them enough to share. So be thoughtful, but don't let unfounded apprehension guide your decision.

Manage your departure like a project. This means managing the work itself, but also managing perceptions. On the work side, identify the activities that will need to be performed by others and the knowledge you have that needs to be captured. Propose the set of steps that you'll need to take, ask for the resources you'll need to succeed, and establish how your stakeholders want to be kept up to speed. The departure of a critical team member can be very worrying for your colleagues, so you may need to go the extra mile to earn their trust in your transition process.

There are upsides to your decision to leave for school, though, even while you're still in your job. Expect that some of your colleagues will ask what you're doing and why. Take this opportunity to tell your story, including the skills you'd like to develop and the industries or roles you'd like to land when you graduate. Your colleagues may have connections or knowledge that can help your career search in the summer before you arrive.

Send a (final) note. Send a note to those you've worked with and learned from to thank them for whatever they've given you: advice, encouragement, an example to follow, or coaching. They'll appreciate knowing that you recognized what they did.

Also reach out to as many external contacts as you can. Make connections on LinkedIn, or at least send them an email. Here, too, tell your story so that they can offer their knowledge and connections.

Leaving a job, moving, and starting school are all disruptive, and managing the three simultaneously is a real challenge. Get your gameplan in order now, and reach out to future classmates, current students (ask Admissions), and your contacts in Minneapolis to start making your new home.

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